Activision’s Modern Warfare 3 Beats Out EA’s Battlefield 3 in Early Sales

Published on November 11, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

The battle between first-person shooters this holiday season will be bloody one.

Electronic Arts is taking its Battlefield 3 franchise head to head against Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which can only be called a match-up between two giants.

Millions in marketing dollars will be spilled and billions will be mined from consumers seeking to play realistic role-playing war games.

However, the first round has been won by¬†Activision, which clearly had the upper hand going into it based on last year’s success of Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Today, the company announced that the release on Tuesday shattered its own first-day sales records, leading them to declare that the game has become “the biggest entertainment launch ever.”

In all, Activision sold more than 6.5 million units in North America and the United Kingdom in the first 24 hours at an estimated sell-through rate of more than $400 million. Last year, the company’s first-day revenues totaled $360 million, or roughly 5.6 million copies, on day one sales of the game’s predecessor Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Comparatively, Electronic Arts’ Battlefield 3, which came out late last month, sold five million units during its first week of sales.

Analysts were bullish on Activision’s early results.

“We believe the MW3 Day 1 sell-thru is a positive datapoint, and the stock should react positively on the news,” said Citi’s Neil Doshi, who added that if Activision can hit sales of $1 billion in five weeks or less, the stock should jump once again.

Analyst Arvind Bhatia of Sterne Agee wrote in an note to investors that Activision’s runaway success could result in revenues of $700 million to $750 million in the first week alone.

While both games are heavy on the hardcore action and realistic shooting, the battle between EA and Activision is as real as it can get.

Electronic Arts is calling Battlefield 3 the largest and fastest-selling first-person shooter title in the company’s 25-year history.

Both companies will also be banking on making additional income from digital components. Activision has developed a standalone social network, called Call of Duty Elite, where players share video and create profiles for free. But the premium version, which includes competition for prizes, costs an additional $50.

Making the competition even more intense is that Activision and EA aren’t the only two battling for the hardcore players this holiday season.

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is now available for preorder ahead of its release next week. PlayStation’s Uncharted 3 went on sale Nov. 1 and Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham City was released on Oct. 18. Microsoft also published its own first-person shooter, Gears of War 3, back in September.

Activision’s shares fell 17 cents, or 1.3 percent, today to trade at $12.81 a share. Electronic Arts’ shares jumped 30 cents, or 1.3 percent to $23.87 a share.

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